One of the women that I have been visiting weekly this semester passed away on Monday. I gave the eulogy at her graveside service today. Here it is:
Memories surround us in this place. They hover on the edges of our vision, on the tips of our tongues, just out of ear range. We close our eyes and let those memories wash over us: We remember Evelyn as a young woman, cradled in Lyle’s arms, spinning across dance floors, laughing. We remember her standing behind us, her voice scaling up and down in great tales as she created masterpieces with our hair. We remember her behind the stove in her kitchen, in any kitchen, chopping, measuring, cooking without recipes. We remember her in her last days, struggling to the find the words to speak. We remember her stories – we remember her struggles - We remember her. Now that she has gone on and received her ultimate healing – our memories have become more precious than we ever knew. Some of the imporantce in moments like these, in places such as this, is that we suddenly realize how valuable our memories are – how valuable our memories have always been. To all people in all places. The people of ancient Israel knew the value of memories – they passed on the memories of their history, the memories of their mothers and fathers, through stories told around campfires, through the words and acts of priests and prophets, through the poetry of their psalms; “what our fathers have told us we will not hide from our children, we will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power, and the wonders he has done.” Jesus himself taught us the power and value of memory – “When you break bread and drink wine” he said “remember me.” Memory. It links us to our past. It links us to our loved ones, whether they remain with us or have gone on ahead of us. Memory helps us peer back and see the subtle and almost invisible movements of God among us and in us. Memories surround us here. Share them with each other like Evelyn shared with all of us – tell the stories of Evelyn knocking wigs off nuns, of Evelyn escaping the torture and terror of the concentration camp in Dachau, of Evelyn dancing through the night, of Evelyn and Lyle fighting and loving each other simultaneously. Tell each other about Evelyn’s love, her devotion, her perseverance, her stubborn, stormy, fiery nature. Tell each other about her struggles, and frustrations, those last days that seemed to fill with pain. Tell each other about Evelyn’s faith, her love of the Lord, her love of church, her love of all God’s children. Share – link yourselves to the past; link yourselves to Evelyn, to each other; and look back and see God moving within her life, within your own. Memories can bring healing, and I pray that today, and all the days that follow after this one, you will begin that painful process of healing. That the scars of yesterday may disappear, that the tears of loss become tears of thankfulness, that your hearts may be filled by the love and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ instead of by loneliness and despair. God wants you to remember – your memories keep you aware of a greater world, of a greater people, of a greater purpose. God wants you to remember - in the act of remembering, your past becomes a part of your present, God’s saving acts throughout history, become his saving acts now. God wants you to remember – our loved ones can never really be gone when we purposely and thoughtfully pass our memories amongst each other. Share your memories. Heal each other. Remember Evelyn. Let us pray.